Kathy Tyers continues the story line of the Firebird books with Wind and Shadow. In this fourth book, the tale moves forward over twenty years, to a very different Federacy. The distrust and fear of the Sentinels has ramped upward in the past two decades in-universe sine the end of the third book, Crown of Fire, and persecution is beginning to rise. Things have come to the point where there are those who advocate for the actual genocide of the Ehretan remnants, both Sentinel and Mikuhran (as the former Sentinel enemies, the Shuhr, are currently called.
The book opens by introducing the reader to a young Mikuhran woman named Wind Haworth. Wind is one of a group of Mikuhrans who was rescued as a child from the villainous Shuhr, and raised by the Sentinels on Thyrica. She eventually chose to go home to do good for her people and the Sentinels both, and in this vein, is awaiting the arrival of the priest Kiel Caldwell to help her in this quest. One of the two twins of “Mari” Firebird Angelo Caldwell and General Brennan Caldwell, he has dedicated himself to teaching the truths of the Eternal Speaker to those who ask. Wind is a rarity, a young Mikuhran who follows the Path, and wants to establish a relationship between the two Ehretan remnants.
Part of this is her idealism, and religious beliefs, but part is also reality, in her mind. She believes that with the increasing hostility they are suffering from others, that the only way the two groups can survive is to make peace and work together. Together, they may be able to forge some way to survive the coming government actions against them. It turns out that she is right, and that the Sentinels and Mikuhrans are very nearly wiped out, and it also turns out that she, along with Kiel and his twin brother Kinnor, will be the ones the Eternal Speaker will use to stop this threat until He sends His promised Boh-Dabar.
The tone of this story was much darker than in previous books. I don’t mean it was bloody or overly violent, as most of the scenes were arguably less graphic than in the previous three books. Instead, there was this overall sense of darkness slowly enveloping the galaxy. To put it simply, much like the government of Rome leading up to the time of Our Lord on earth, the Federacy is turning steadily more authoritarian, and their target is the modified Ehretan remnants.
I had stated in my review of The Annotated Firebird Trilogy that the fear and hostility the people of the Federacy felt towards the Ehretans was somewhat understandable. Then, after all, the Shuhr menace was a real threat, so the paranoia, while definitely wrong, could be sympathized with. This is often a problem with such fantasy or science fiction series where there is a persecuted people. The persecuted folks actually do have shady pasts and/or incredible, frightening powers. It’s only natural, though wrong, to fear such folks, and this is where the stories lose some of their steam. I don’t know if Kathy Tyers was deliberately trying to avoid this problem, or just did so accidentally, but she did avoid it. The fact is that there was only one single problem with the Sentinel community in the twenty years since the Shuhr were put down, and that was an undercover operation gone wrong against some drug cartel. The Sentinels Special Ops member, who was severely punished for that mess-up, was our hero Kinnor Caldwell.
No, in this story the persecution is very much not justified. It is due to bigotry and hate. To racism of this group of people with enhanced abilities due to no fault of their own, who do their best to never use their powers for anything but the absolute good. The primary villain of the novel, a “shadow” (hence the title, Wind and Shadow after the primary female protagonist and primary antagonist) is stoking the flames of resentment. All of these demonic creatures (which is what the shadows essentially are) are doing so, hoping to somehow destroy the prophesied Boh-Dabar.
I am trying to avoid giving away too many spoilers, but I thought I had to deal with a few items first. I had only one problem with this novel, and that is the vagueness of just why the actions that the Shadow was trying to tempt Kiel to do were so bad. I get a general idea that using their abilities for gain is evil, but the cases in the book are about saving lives, not getting rich off of the stock market. For that matter, how is using their psychic powers so much worse than lying, for the same good ends? I can get the idea of robbing one of free will being wrong, or of violating Scriptural commands being wrong, and I think that these were what the rub was, but really I do wish Tyers had dealt with this whole issue more in-depth.
The second item was that this novel had a theme of sorts, if you looked for it, whether it was intentional on the part of Tyers or not. This was a theme it shared with the third book in the series, Crown of Fire. Namely this is that evil can not comprehend good, love, the supernatural, or anything else that doesn’t fit into their narrow, demented view of “logic.” In the third book this eventually lead to the downfall of the Shuhr, with the defection of Terza Shirak, to save her unborn child. In Wind and Shadow, this happens again with a close-knit group of clones. The very seeds of their betrayal of the evil Mikuhrans were planted by the very same head of their cell that wants to “conquer” the galaxy.
Almost similar to Voldemort’s refusal to recognize the power of “love” in Harry Potter, and Emperor Palpatine’s refusal to recognize the uses of loyalty and friendship in the Star Wars films, the bad guys in the 3rd and 4th books are done in by their refusal to recognize the truths apparent to almost anyone else who knows of them, including that of the reality of the Mighty Singer. In a very real way, for all of the evil that occurs in the Firebird universe, faith in God and obeying His will still gets you victory. It may be a painful victory, and maybe even a victory in death, but it is a victory nonetheless.
I wanted to note that it was obvious from the beginning of the book just how much like the virgin Mary young Tiala Caldwell was. Whether you view Mary as sinless, as Catholics do; or an exemplary, though fallen, woman, as many Protestants do, it is obvious that the character of Tiala could only represent her. This is, admittedly, a major spoiler, but it was one that I had to mention, because I just find the character of Tiala as a Mary-analogue, quite interesting.
Despite the darker tone of the work, I found myself greatly enjoying and tearing through this story. You would think that a work so directly derivative, as opposed to merely allegorical of, the Bible would be a tad tedious, but this wasn’t. Tyers seamlessly blended together space opera, fantasy, Biblical ideas, and a morality play of sorts, into a brilliant “what if?” scenario about the Messiah coming to a space-faring civilization. Absolutely incredible.